Tero Pitkämäki wins javelin silver in Gothenburg
Olympic Champion Andreas Thorkildsen of Norway sealed his first European Championship victory last night with his final throw, 88.78 metres. Finland's Tero Pitkämäki, in turn, secured the silver medal with his first effort of 86.44 metres, with which he led the competition for about a minute.
Already in the second round the Norwegian produced a throw (87.37) that proved too much for his competitors, before putting the icing on the cake in the last round.
Despite a promising start, in which all three "medal throws" were made, in the cooling Gothenburg evening the javelin competition failed to reach the level of the great classics.
Before the competition both Thorkildsen and Pitkämäki reckoned that a throw of more than 90 metres would be required for the gold. Previously this season the Norwegian has reached 91.59 metres against the Finn's 91.11. These are the two leading world marks for the year in this event.
The pair, who are good friends, have now competed against each other five times this season. On three occasions the Norwegian has knocked spots off the Finn. For Pitkämäki, this medal nevertheless provides some consolation for his disappointment at not making the podium - amidst massive advance expectations from the home crowd - in Helsinki at last year's rain-hit World Championships.
Until he was 16, Thorkildsen, who won the Olympic title in Athens two years ago and the silver medal at the World Championships in Helsinki, played football. After that javelin became his number one hobby, a decision which he has never regretted.
Thorkildsen has sports in his genes. His mother was the Norwegian champion in the 100 metre hurdles, and his father ran 100 metres in a creditable 10.7 seconds over the flat.
The Gothenburg crowd also witnessed
the end at the top level of one of the most astonishing careers in modern athletics.Jan Zelezny of the Czech Republic finished his illustrious javelin career on a high by winning the European Championship bronze with a 85.92 throw, delivered with his first attempt of the evening.
In his career Zelezny, 40, has won three Olympic gold medals and three World Championships. For some reason the European title, however, always managed to elude the world record holder (98.48), whose average for his 100 best throws is immense - over 90 metres.
For Finland, the men's javelin has traditionally been the most successful athletics event at these games. In the 20 European Championship meets, Finland has won 12 medals in all in this sport: 4 golds, 6 silvers, and 2 bronzes.
Barring unforeseen upsets, it looks as if Pitkämäki's silver this time will be the only hardware brought back from Gothenburg 2006 by the Finnish team, but hope springs eternal and the games continue until Sunday.
Previously in HS International Edition:
No medals from the javelin - Pitkämäki bitterly disappointed with 4th (11.8.2005)
EAA - European Athletics